The joy of strawberries

By on May 15, 2012

The Hawthornes are on a cross-country trip. We left the day after I got our postcard notifying me that the Powell’s Point strawberries were ready for picking. And I’ve been thinking about those strawberries ever since we left.

We’ve been stopping at grocery stores throughout our travels and buying containers of strawberries to snack on across the United States, but they don’t hold a candle to fresh-picked, juicy, still warm-from-the-sun, bursting with flavor Currituck strawberries. Oh, how I miss them.

For those of you lucky enough to be able to pick strawberries now, here are a few of my favorite strawberry recipes. Try them, and I’m sure they’ll become some of your favorites too.

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Strawberry Pie

1 Baked pie crust, cooled
(If you don’t make your own pie dough, I recommend using the rolled up Pillsbury pie doughs that come two to a box. I do not like the frozen pie dough already in the tin. It’s not deep enough and it has a tendency to crack in the freezer.)
1 quart strawberries for the filling, rinsed and trimmed
Plus about 20 extra whole strawberries, bottoms trimmed, and the prettiest you can pick out.
1 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
¼ cup cold water
1 TB butter
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened

Pour the quart of strawberries in a sauce pan, mashing them while bringing to a boil.
Add in the sugar.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and add to the strawberry mixture.
Bubble slowly over medium low heat for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and add in the butter, stirring to melt.
Let cool slightly, then blend 4 TB of the strawberry mixture with the cream cheese.
Evenly spread this mixture over the cooled crust.
Set the whole berries, points up, in the cream cheese mixture. Use enough berries to completely cover the base.
Pour strawberry mixture over top.
Refrigerate until set.

If you have any leftover strawberry mixture (and you probably will if you use store-bought pie dough instead of making your own deep dish pie.), it’s delicious as a breakfast condiment. Use as a jam on toast or spread over strawberry pancakes. Use your favorite pancake recipe, add a few sliced strawberries in the batter, and top with the strawberry mixture and maple syrup. If you like pancakes, then you’d love a buckwheat pancake. Use equal parts buckwheat flour and all-purpose flour in your pancake recipe and you end up with a tender cake in the center and lovely crunchy, toasty edges.

Strawberry Mousse
Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs, crushed
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
½ stick butter, melted
2 TB honey
Mix all ingredients and press into a pie dish.

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Mousse:
1 cup strawberry purée
1 package gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 TB vanilla extract
1 cup whole strawberries, cleaned and trimmed

Process enough strawberries to end up with one cup of strained strawberry purée.
Add a packet of gelatin to the purée, stir, and let it soften for about 5 minutes.
Add in one cup boiling water.
Beat the cream until slightly thickened.
Add in sugar slowly, beating constantly, until the cream is thick.
Add in vanilla.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the strawberry and gelatin mixture.
Pour into the prepared crust.
Tuck the whole strawberries into the gelatin mixture and refrigerate.

One of my favorite spring salads showcases mixed baby greens from my garden along with strawberries and avocadoes. I wanted to create a dressing that wouldn’t overpower the delicate flavor of the avocado, but would still complement the fruitiness of the strawberries. And I think I did just that.

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Salad Fixin’s
Mixed salad greens, spinach if you like
Julienned carrot
Red cabbage
Chopped red onion
Sliced cucumber
Sliced avocado
Sliced strawberries

Mix greens, carrot, cabbage, and onion. Arrange cucumber, avocado, and strawberries over top. Whenever you use avocado, slice immediately before serving. If it sits out, it will oxidize and turn brown. To avoid this, use lime or lemon juice over the avocado.

Poppy Seed Dressing
1 TB chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried mustard
A few grinds of pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
¾ cup canola oil
1 heaping TB poppy seeds

Place onions, salt, dried mustard, freshly-ground pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar in a mini-processor. With processor running, slowly pour in oil to make a nice emulsion. Stir in poppy seeds.

This salad is pleasantly and totally different from your regular, run of the mill salads. The sweet dressing was a perfect complement to the avocado, strawberry, and cucumber. I loved the creamy-firm texture and greenness of the avocado, the sweet, fruity juiciness and redness of the strawberries, and the crisp freshness of the cucumber. The poppy seed dressing brought it all together in a delightful synergism.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Whole strawberries
1 package Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 TB honey, with honeycomb (Or you can use 1 TB Crisco. It’s for the sheen.)
Nuke the chocolate with the honey or Crisco.
Dip the strawberries in the chocolate mixture.
Place on wax paper and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.
Consume with abandon and utter joy.

When the Hawthornes go strawberry picking, we pick about 20 to 30 pounds. What we don’t use immediately, we freeze in individual snack baggies. This way, we can have a strawberry smoothie anytime throughout the winter and it gives us a little blast of spring.

Instead of using ice and fresh strawberries for our smoothies, we like to use the frozen strawberries. A snack baggie is perfect for one individual smoothie. With frozen strawberries, you don’t need to add ice to the smoothie. That way, you get a much more intense, richer strawberry flavor. The strawberry is undiluted by ice. It’s sublime and exquisite.

Strawberry Smoothies

1 snack baggie of frozen strawberries
(1-2 cups strawberries. Depends on your tastes.)
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup heavy cream
2 TB sugar
Dash vanilla extract (In most dessert preparations, I like a good amount of vanilla. In a smoothie, I just need a hint of vanilla.)

Blend all in processor.
Garnish with whole strawberries.

For riffs on the strawberry smoothie, feel free to embellish. Add banana, pineapple, whatever fruit you like. Honey works too instead of sugar.

Balsamic Strawberries

Now, I’m going to give you one last preparation involving strawberries and you’re going to think it’s weird, but you must try it:
Slice strawberries. Sprinkle with a little sugar. And drizzle balsamic vinegar over top. Enjoy!
If you ever have slightly less than ripe strawberries from the grocery store, this works wonders on them.

Take advantage of the season. Strawberries are bountiful and at the peak of flavor. Relish them now!

Please visit with Rosie at Kitchens Are Monkey Business. I’m not cooking right now, but the scenery is beautiful!

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